The study of the prehistoric human past is called "paleoanthropology".
Anthropology itself refers to the study of human beings.
Paleoanthropology is the study of human ancestors in the distant past.
Since we cannot travel back in time to observe these ancestors, scientists must use other kinds of evidence to understand what happened.
The people who study the human past do not call themselves archaeologists. There are historians and paleontologists, anthropologists and paleoanthropologists, forensic archaeologists and forensic anthropologists.
Archaeology is the study of the relics of past humans and their behaviours.
Paleoanthropology is the study of our near-human ancestors.
I'd always been interested in this, but had a renewed interest in this subject when I first read the book "Clan of the Cave Bear" by Jean M. Auel.
I've since collected the rest of the series and all the books have been read far more than once.
I think this is a fascinating subject, particularly the stone age and the ice age, when much of Europe was covered by glaciers.
There isn't much information available that I can find with a quick look, even in the local libraries (which I joined just for this purpose) have only small sections of archaeology books and most of those center around Egypt and the tombs of the Pharaohs.
I've heard plenty about the Pyramids over the years, but what I really want to know more about is Paleolithic eras.
How did they cook?
this iron pot looks a little too modern to me, but they cooked with fire so that's good enough
Cooking was also done by heating foods in water, thus creating soups and stews, and large animals were often buried in a fire pit which was then covered over and left all day, the slow cooking method of the time.
What did they eat?
Mammoth and other things.
How did they acquire their foods?
women and children did the gathering of plants.
Vegetable matter, fruits, berries etc.
I've read this in many books, not all of them fictional.
How did they learn which plants were medicinal?
In the books pictured above, the "medicine woman" or "healer" would take tiny tastes of new plant materials in various ways,raw, cooked, as a tea, and take careful note of how they affected her.
If a food had no ill effects and was tasty or otherwise beneficial, it was added to the things already eaten. Foods that made one drowsy were kept apart from the daily diet and used as a medicinal, same with things that brought about pain relief. In this way herbs were discovered as a rejuvenating or calming tea etc, or as flavourful additions to the cooking pots.
Pictures are hard to find. But I found a few. I can't be certain which era they are from, but here they are.
The clan or tribe would allocate sections of caves according to who had the most "status", for instance the leader and his family and a shaman or healer and his family would get a more favourable spot away from the windy opening, but with an easier access to the communal fire perhaps.
(They didn't have the stairs of course, those were put there by archaeologists working on the site).
In the books I've read one mammoth would feed the entire clan or tribe. The hunter credited with the kill would be awarded the hide to portion out as he saw fit.
Nothing was wasted, with large bones such as shoulder blades and pelvic bones used as platters and dishes, horns or tusks would be used for cups and even tiny bones and teeth would be hollowed out and used as beads or flutes.All the inner parts had a use too.
Paleoanthropology. one of my favourite subjects.